Reflections on Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is the town where I spent most of my time while I was in Europe. Tyler and I flew into Brussels, and spent the entire first day trying to find the place we were staying in Waterloo, which is a town about 10 miles south of Brussels. This is where Tyler’s girlfriend, Aly, was staying, and she had arranged for us to stay there for a few days during our trip (as well as leave our large suitcases at the house so we didn’t have to carry them around all day).

Leading up to the trip, Tyler and I hadn’t really done any research at all as to where we were staying. In our defense, we were both working 14 hour days trying to get enough work completed so that we could justify leaving the country for 2 weeks. We were so ill-prepared that we didn’t even know the official language of Belgium! We soon learned that it was French (with Flemish also being spoken), but that didn’t help us much, since neither of us knew a single word of French. Yes, we were typical stupid Americans, but we were determined not to propel that stereotype, so we did our best to fit in. This didn’t always work very well.

Can you say travel weary?Within the first 20 minutes that we were in Brussels, we knew we were in trouble. We were hungry after getting off our flight, so we walked into a small cafe to get some food. Everything was in French, and the servers only spoke French as well. Understanding spoken French is nearly impossible if you have never heard it before, so we were fortunate that the menu was written in large letters on the wall of the shop, and some options even had pictures! I can deduce meanings of most French foods when they are in written form, since they are rooted in Latin, much like words in Spanish. Since I know the names of most foods in Spanish, I was able to guess as to what we would be eating for lunch. This worked fairly well, and our lunch turned out to be pretty solid. I even ordered a Cappuccino masterfully (can’t really screw that one up!)

The rest of my our first day in Brussels was spent trying to figure out how to get to the place we were staying. Somehow we managed to find a train station and buy tickets to Waterloo. Once in Waterloo, we found some girls who spoke English, and they pointed us in the direction of where we were staying. We even managed to find a bus line that would take us near our destination. However, we were lugging around 2 suitcases each, and the bus was packed, so we weren’t able to board. We decided to walk it out, and this proved to be a stupid decision. Several miles, tons of cramps, and a few blisters later, we still weren’t close to where we wanted to be. There were no cabs in sight either, so things were looking bad. We kept on walking, and finally we came across a cab driver who was able to take us to our destination (that was a fun negotiation, since we didn’t speak the language).

Once we got to our destination, Tyler and I started to loosen up a little bit. Thank god, because that entire first day we were completely on edge. There isn’t a greater culture shock than lugging around suitcases in an unknown city, not speaking the language, and just having an overall feeling of hopelessness. Thankfully, once we found our destination, many of these feelings started to go away (unfortunately, they never really left at any point in the trip).

The Battlefield of WaterlooWaterloo was a cool town, and the house we stayed in was very cool as well (and OLD… it dated back to the 1700’s apparently). It was also right across the street from the battlefield of Waterloo, where Napoleon fought the English in 1815. In 2007, it is simply farm land, with little to no mention of what happened nearly 200 years ago. They had wireless Internet, so I was able to stay in touch with the world while I was there (something I took for granted, because I had little to no wireless in Brussels, Amsterdam and Barcelona). Plus, we got to stay there for free, so overall, I was very happy with the accommodations. Waterloo gets my thumbs up, and the only complaint that I had was that public transportation was sort of a pain in the ass, and it took at least 20 minutes to get anywhere.

Brussels Town Hall all lit upI was in the city center of Brussels several times as well, and I had a somewhat mixed review of that city. As far as positives go, there were quite a few cool buildings and attractions throughout the city, and it was easy to find most things (except for our hotel that Aly booked, he he). As for negatives, my only real complaints were that there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the town, and you can pretty much see all that the town has to offer in a single day. Unfortunately, we were there for parts of 4 days, so Brussels started to bore me toward the end.

This one's for Jean Claude Van DammeAmong the cool things we did, the first was eating an awesome dinner in the Seafood district of Brussels (I guess it wasn’t really a district, but rather a long narrow street that had 30-40 seafood restaurants in a row. I ended up ordering Mussels for dinner, purely so that I could say that I was eating “Mussels in Brussels” in a Jean Claude Van Damme voice. I am easily entertained.

Waffles with ChocolateDinner was followed by dessert. Since Belgium is well known for its waffles, we decided to indulge and try the delicacy. I opted for a standard, plain waffle, and I was a little disappointed with what I got. Ty was smart and he had a chocolate covered waffle, and I think he liked his a little more than I liked mine. See the picture for evidence.

Absynthe BarAfter dessert, we decided to go out and experience the Brussels night life. We found a cool bar that sold Absinthe, which is a Czech liquor that is very well known for its hallucinogenic powers (and therefore illegal in the states). We decided to try a shot of the liqueur, and had it prepared traditional style. This involved pouring a shot of Absinthe, dropping a sugar cube into the shot, digging up the drenched sugar cube and putting it on a spoon, lighting the sugar cube on fire, blowing out the fire, dropping the sugar into the shot glass, and crushing the sugar cube with the spoon. Then when that’s all done, you drink the shot. And the shot tastes like shit.

Some German Dude drinking with usWe only had one shot of the Absinthe, so hallucinations did not occur, however, it was a good precursor to the other wonderful drinks we’d have that night. First off was a glass of coconut flavored beer, which was surprisingly good! After that we went to some other bars and had a few more beers of various sizes and strengths. We met some German dude who was so impressed with the size of our largest beer that he decided to have some too!

Hoegarden looks sexier than Stella ArtoisTown Hall, All lit upThe rest of the night was fun, and we ended up at a cool little bar drinking some more big beers. Before we went back to our hotel, we walked into one of the coolest scenes that I have ever witnessed; a place called the Town Hall, which was all lit up at night. This is one of the most well known parts of Brussels, and for very good reason. It is absolutely beautiful at night! It is part of a courtyard in the middle of the city called the Grand’Place, which is a completely open area surrounded by some very cool buildings. The view was surreal, and it was a great way to end the night.

Good friends since 3rd grade... and we still thinking pee jokes are funnyThe next day, we toured the rest of Brussels, and came across a little statue called Manneken Pis. This statue is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Brussels, and it is often dressed up in little outfits for various occasions.

Other than that, my time in Brussels was pretty low-key. It was a cool town with some awesome buildings, and a few tourist attractions. If you are visiting Europe, it may be worthwhile for you to spend a day in Brussels (if it fits into your travel plans). However, I wouldn’t recommend staying more than a day in Brussels, because you will soon become bored with the town, and want to travel elsewhere.

Below is a gallery of pictures I took while in Brussels (complete with comments). I added a new gallery feature to my site that allows you to browse through all of the photos without leaving the page! Simply click on one of the photos, and it will load right in your browser. Click the next/previous buttons and you can easily view the entire gallery.

Enjoy!

Gotta love the warning labels they place on cigarettes in EuropeOne of these days... I will buy some Johnny BlueTy on the train to Brussels central stationStatue in the middle of BrusselsHuge ClockThis building looks importantThis dude sort of looks like Napoleon... but I don't think it isRandom Lotus sighting on the streets of WaterlooChurch in Braine L'alleudObligatory Gas Price ShotCowsGrand'PlaceTy and AllyMy New HatOur Knitting TeacherOld BrusselsThe Source of the InternetTy = Douche CapMe and my girlfriendMarionetteThe 95 Weiner Line... Quite popular with the ladiesAly looks happy as alwaysAt some swanky restaurantEating Mussels in BrusselsCrawdaddyLe Bourgeois - our restaurantBelgian WafflesMansintheThe three of us after drinking AbsyntheBig BeersSauers like Big BeersJust the Three of usBold ClaimMannekin PisTootin Tre and Rippin ReggieThe Aly FaceGettin my Drink onThe autumn leaves in Braine l'AlleudMannekin Pis's sisterSaw this Lamborghini in Waterloo on the way to the airportChicken Nuggets with Currie Sauce... YUM

About Jeff Sauer

I started blogging in the year 2000, and go in spurts of inspiration followed by long dormancy. I love writing, and your comments keep me going, so comment!

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